Wordpress in the White House

Joe Stubbs
Head of Web Development

By moving from Drupal to Wordpress saved the American Taxpayers as much as $3 million annually


In January when The White House swapped residents, everyone was expecting a very rough transition.  As it played out things went quite well, but one transition that was always certain to go well was the White House website, this is because since 2017 the website has been powered by Wordpress, and the new administration stuck with the platform.

From 2009 up to December 2017, the website was powered by Drupal, the open-source CMS.  However according to a report by the Washington Examiner back in 2017, the site apparently when running Drupal cost more than $6 million per year to the taxpayer - for things like maintenance and security updates. By moving from Drupal to Wordpress saved the American Taxpayers as much as $3 million annually. 

A White House source at the time said: “The old site was a good temporary measure that allowed us to use what the previous administration had built, but it wasn't where it needed to be in terms of providing people with content they can easily access.  The updated website will feature enhanced search tools, making it easier for visitors to filter content by date or topic. It will also provide "in-depth policy updates" and appear "much cleaner," according to the official.




So moving to Wordpress clearly had some benefits, but what do those benefits mean?  After all Drupal is secure and maintained.  The numbers though speak for themselves, Drupal powered 1.7% of all websites which translates as 3% of all CMS based sites as of 2021 according to W3Techs, whereas Wordpress powers 39% of all websites translating to 64% of all CMS based sites.

Those numbers are staggering, and with higher numbers for usage, maintenance that is carried out frequently, security being paramount and premium plugins like WooCommerce  which can efficiently provide world class e-commerce solutions, all combined with hosting solutions like WPEngine this can all lead to an extremely attractive solution.

The White House website site all came together in 6 weeks - which is mighty impressive for a web build.  The site went live at 12:01pm on inauguration day even with the developers only getting access to the WhiteHouse.gov contractors around January 6, by which time most of the site had been built.  Inclusive pronoun options were added to the White House contact form so working with the Trump administration was key so the backend systems could be updated to handle letters to the president - this whole process should’ve taken months.

The site introduces new features like a high-contrast dark mode toggle, and large text options which are both important for legibility and are especially important for users with visual impairments.  It also brought back a Spanish version of the site, which was retired by the Trump administration.  The relaunched site also includes an accessibility statement with a commitment from the administration to work towards conforming to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.1, level AA criteria.

The site is also fast, very fast.  It feels very quick to load on mobile and desktop, but Google Pagespeed Insights is also giving it some pretty decent scores - around 95 on desktop and around 76 on mobile.   These scores are given as the site is efficient in its loading, doesn’t take long to interact with and shows users content as quickly as possible.

So all this combined means if one of the most secure administrations in the world can pick Wordpress as its front of house, then Wordpress should still be a front row choice for any website.  If security were an issue It would not have been picked by multiple White House administrations and here at Candyspace we are of firm belief that Wordpress is a secure platform - it just requires specialist developers, ongoing maintenance, secure hosting, careful plugin selection and updates applied when they are released.

The end result can be seen here: https://www.whitehouse.gov and as you can see it loads very quickly, is fully responsive, has great accessibility options and displays content that is relevant for it’s audience - the entire world.